Heading into 2019, the Raiders needed serious help one the defensive line. The defense only mustered 13 sacks in 2018, which was one of the worst showings in franchise history. The team selected defensive end Clelin Ferrell with their first pick in last year’s draft and he was supposed to at least somewhat fill the void that Khalil Mack.
However, fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby was the one who stepped up and finished the season with 10 sacks. His relentless playing style and swagger have quickly made him a fan favorite and there’s going to be a lot of excitement about him this upcoming season. Crosby has often been compared to former Pro Bowl pass rusher Jared Allen and he recently revealed that Allen is his biggest inspiration.
It’s hard not to see the parallels between Allen and Crosby. Both men were drafted in the fourth round of their drafts and came from small schools. Crosby had 10 sacks during his rookie season and Allen had nine. They also boast similar athletic traits, but Crosby is slightly more athletic.
Allen was a five-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL in sacks twice. If Crosby can develop into half the player Allen was, the Raiders found themselves a serious steal.
Maxx Crosby Named Best Late-Round Pick by Raiders
Based on early returns, the Raiders absolutely nailed their 2019 draft. They found strong contributors on every day of the draft. Despite Foster Moreau and Hunter Renfrow having strong rookie campaigns, ESPN rated Maxx Crosby as the best late-round pick the Raiders made:
Taken No. 106 overall, Crosby finished second in NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after getting 10 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, 47 tackles, four forced fumbles, four passes defended and 11 stuffs. The “Salt” to fellow rookie edge rusher Clelin Ferrell’s “Pepa,” Crosby had four sacks against the Bengals in Week 11, after becoming a full-time starter in Week 9. Crosby has already become a fan favorite as well as a regular on his home stadium DJ’s playlist, “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa spinning whenever he, or Ferrell, gets a sack. Expect more airtime, then, in Las Vegas. At least, that’s the hope for the Raiders going forward for this third-day selection.
It’s hard to argue that Crosby was not the most impressive. He almost won Defensive Rookie of the Year as a fourth-round pick. When it’s all said and done, Crosby could go down as the best overall player the Raiders found in the 2019 draft.
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Will Raiders Add Defensive Linemen in the Draft?
While the Raiders did improve their pass rush quite a bit last season, there’s still work to do. Crosby has locked up one of the starting gigs, but the jury is still out on Clelin Ferrell as a consistent pass rusher. He did claim he’s going to look like a different player in 2020 and he still has a lot of potential.
Confidence appears to be waning in Arden Key and he’s going to be a cut candidate once training camp comes. One of the team’s biggest offseason additions was Carl Nassib and he’s a solid pass rusher, but he’s not going to put double-digit sacks.
There is still work to be done to make the Raiders’ pass rush one of the better ones in the NFL, but it’s unlikely the team looks at defensive ends early in the draft. If they’re going to add to the defensive line, it’s going to be on the interior. Adding a defensive tackle who can consistently get after the quarterback should free up the defensive ends to make more plays.